Five Poems


Luncheon on the Grass*

The woman in the background,
washing something from the picnic,
is as large as the foregrounders.
Only the uncharitable would find
the artist to lack the skills to paint
in accord with the laws of perspective.

The woman in the background
is a giant. No, not a literal giant.
Were the viewer there in the scene,
her physical size would seem normal.
For the foregrounders, however, it is
her presence, her aura, that is gigantic.

She is, relatively, the goody-goody
of the party. Covered in a gown,
she tidies up while the rest attempt
to hang loose, carefree as the strokes
of Manet’s brush, seated among
the mess of sensual fruit and bread.

They cannot hang loose, as loose
as they would like, with her there.
Looming in their minds as minder
of mores (however much she tries
not to be a killjoy), she is gigantic
to show what no camera could.

Were it not for her, the luncheon
would have culminated in an orgy.
The man on the right, cane erect
in his lap towards to nude, suggests
with a finger that the three of them
tip off into the woods for some fun.

From the higher ground, though,
the giant aims to restrain the hand
that makes the gesture to tip away.
The dreamy eyes of the other man
gaze into nothing, as he considers
the proposal too wild to work.

The woman at the left, easygoing
in her nudity, looks at the viewer
to get our opinion of her naughtiness.
No, she does not need our approval.
She is game. It is just a formality
to ask, “You think I should go for it?”

* This piece is an ekphrastic poem inspired by Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Manet’s 1863 oil painting.

Time To Go?

You have perhaps stayed too long
when in front of you your hosts
no longer hold back fierce quarrels.—
Of course, this might just mean
that you are now at home.

Jeff Goldblum

October chill at dawn, a bloated fly
is positioned on my window as if ready
to spring. I find a good book for the job.

An enchanted halo engirths it, as I see
closer now. It looks to be condensation.
Tip-toed on the sill, my book cocked,

I find its abdomen white and woolen
with velvet filaments. That white ring
is their dust, a scattershot of spores.

Visiting My Wife’s Family over the Christmas Holidays: A Ghazal


Already how I must fight, fight the pull of the baby rum cake.
She wakens me my second day here, breath sweet as rum cake.

She asks for the fifth of rum my wife sent her upstairs to take,
the duty-free Piarco purchase we made for auntie’s famous rum cake.

I do a trick and then, crazed, pluck her eye crust, my heart starting to quake.
“He does pull off he finga for meh!” she yells to those prepping the cake.


Her on my lap, singing ‘ah want ah piece ah pork,’ deepens my ache.
I got a piece of pork for you alright, my precious cupcake.


She’s just thirteen, my wife’s cousin, but in Carnival she sure does partake.
Video shows her wining in a two-piece, her sexiness taking the cake.


The Soca tune about ‘too much biting insects’ is to her not opaque.
As it plays she stares me down serious behind a smile black with cake.


Pointer cuddled against her nose, she sucks her thumb even while awake,
tonight pulsing it up against the palate with a tongue browned by cake.

I dream a scenario too brave for me, one that would be a mistake:
“Give me some of that girl,” then taking in the glossy digit, tasting her cake.

I dream that it doesn’t feel alien, and that she doesn’t ask me to brake.
M. A. goes back to the States having had a piece of that sweet rum cake.


One end the remote past and the other the remote future, all ever to disembark this train enter into the station of eternity at once.


She wash-clothed her goosey region and burst
for the kitchen to quiet the hunger barks
so as not to get shit about chores undone.
Bent into the cupboard, she was scooping kibble
when the pit-bull terrier ran its snout just right
into the nude spread of her teensy rear.
The cold of the pink nose shocked her system.
“Like it, Tricks?” she asked, rising around.
Ear stiff, the dog tilted its head and barked once.
“Got it good, see?” were her mons-jutted words
as she parted lips blue-vein pale, unveiling
the same pink that edged the dog’s mouth.

She was caught up inspecting for herself
when Tricks stole a lap. “Hey there mister!
What do you think you’re doing with that?”
But the menthol cold cream for the shave
had her much more hot and bothered, apulse,
than the old conditioner approach. Possessed,
and pearly papillae enflamed as they become
on a tongue tasting after a long absence,
she clawed out a glob of chunky peanut butter
and slathered it into rosebud holes, muting
the icy burn. Missionary on cold terrazzo tile,
she took the cleaning by the tropical tongue,
aware of the deep buzz within of ovulation.
Her blonde head fell hard on the floor. Dizzy,
she gave in to the mons feast of slobber.

Along with the sheer taboo of the act
and that parents were due home any minute,
not tensing against the risk of being bitten
made the pulsing pleasure overwhelming.
Galloping out of her pelvic-thrusting body,
she slapped on more and more of the chunk
in a frenzy that triggered frenzy in Tricks
(thought by the household too dumb to learn any).
Black nails untrimmed swelling the cold space
with slipping clicks, the dog snap-snapped at spray
with the chomps of hose play, those throaty sounds
of the Hebrew Chaim: Hahyim, Hahyim, Hayhim.


Both got a treat and no one was hurt
she thought later that night when mother,
preparing father’s next day PB&J,
called out: “What’s with the peanut butter?”

Anyway, she was just a new teen then,
a little sex crazed as is not uncommon
with all those hormones coursing.
Is it so unusual for a little girl
to get herself with a curling iron,
pushing the limit on the speculum?
Is it so unusual for a little girl
to race to rub herself off at the window
as father walks up the driveway
about to enter a field of lamb scent?
Is it so unusual for a little girl
to fantasize about him as she does,
hand around her neck, taking her?
Is it so unusual for a little girl
to grind against girls, objects, animals,
and to keep on despite beatings?
Is it so unusual for a little girl
to let the dog sniff and lick around,
pulled in by that universal gaminess?

Yes, in her twenties she intended to have
an orgasmic childbirth, a birth climax.
But if the conception was so pleasurable
why not try to have the birthing be?
And yes, she did in fact receive The Gift,
that out-of-body in the release of that body.
Hunkered down and rocking over the afghan,
bald-goosey-oiled vulva fanning and splitting,
full-body orgasms tripling with contractions,
gestation revealing itself to have been foreplay,
she was overcome with supreme empowerment,
primitive oxytocin rapture of oneness with all.
The same pelvic thrusting of the last out-of-body,
and all the other minor thrustings after that point,
delivered the body out of her, and delivered her
sobbing, once again, to spiritual transcendence:
“More more more. Oh God yes.”

Besides, she was a good mother. Sure, she did pay
some prostisciutto to be with her down-syndrome son,
boar-grunting in the next room with each thrust.
But why could he not enjoy being loved by a man
like he wanted? Anyway, she was a caring citizen,
a charity-giving, fund-raising lady who lunches.
An exemplar engineer in her working days,
she went beyond codes and standards of practice
when she felt that these failed to protect the public.
She went beyond preventative ethics, in fact.
She innovated, sacrificed, to enhance humanity:
the low-flow sink and toilet, the free services.


She has told herself these things in the quiet times
(not once helping whatever case she was building
by admitting, accepting, her master as master).

But to her horror, a horror without analogy,
she was unable to voice them as an appeal
that she found herself desperate to make
during her last and most trembling ekstasis.
Before a full-circle rainbow that took her back
to memory of its approximation at Niagara Falls,
all she was able to do was receive the cry
so penetrating that it had to come from within,
but so booming, so masculine, so adventitious,
that it had to come from something alien.

She could manage only a howl in response
to the feel of being cast away. Charred lilies
falling, her arms stretched to unwrinkled parents
not seen in years, as well as to her husband
next to them, embraced by them, even though
he had just been caressing her sickbed hand.
Overcome with the most intense rejection
at having been instantaneously forgotten,
at the collective turning of the back on her,
the dropping down felt so real—except that
there was no resistance, no medium. A sword
red with lily-burning heat swelled above. Against
the looping backdrop of Hahyims and boar-grunts,
so clear was the “What’s with the peanut butter?”
and the moans of “More more more. Oh God yes.”

* This piece is an ekphrastic poem inspired by The Last Judgment, Hans Memling’s 15th century triptych. The poem concerns primarily the right panel.

M. A. ISTVAN JR., a sex-positive feminist, used to walk around with that yellow Sony Sports boombox bumping Digable Planets and Black Moon. He would perhaps still today wear Timbs with the tongue drooping, but Wallabees better fit with his professor gig. Visit his page at

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